When you're looking for a youth bike -- which Dick's Sporting Goods defines as bikes suitable for children roughly 10 to 12-years old -- there are two primary things to look for. The first is finding a bike that's enjoyable to ride; the second is safety. Steve the Bike Guy notes that there are no manufacturing safety standards for bike parts, making it even more important for parents to choose bikes with high-quality construction as well as features that are easy for kids to operate.
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Be Wise About Size
Although it might be tempting to buy a youth bike for your kids to "grow into" -- especially since the best bikes sell for around $250 as of 2013 -- it can be a recipe for disaster. "If you do nothing else when buying a kid's bike, make sure it's the right size," states Dan Joyce at BikeRadar. A bike that's too big makes it hard to properly control the bike -- kids may be forced to strain to reach the pedals with their feet and the brake controls with their hands.
Basics for the Best Bike
Look for a bike for your tween with a relatively lightweight aluminum frame. Many youth bikes come with knobby mountain bike tires, but if your kid plans to ride mostly on pavement, a thinner tire is advisable. Make sure a youth bike is proportional, states Stan the Bike Man. Compared to a full-size adult bike, it should feature a smaller saddle, thinner hand grips, smaller pedals and a shorter crank. Either six or seven gears are fine, as long as the gear shift is easy to operate. Look for alloy seat posts and brakes instead of steel.
The cool factor can't be overemphasized when it comes to pre-teens, so the color and design of the bike is likely to be an important factor. A kickstand, which is standard on some models but not others, is a worthy feature. It's easier to use a kickstand than to constantly lower and raise a bike off the ground and it also helps preserve the condition of the bike. If a bike doesn't have a kickstand, it's easy to install one.
It's hard to overemphasize the importance of safety considerations when buying a bike for your tween. As KidsHealth states, roughly 300,000 kids wind up in the emergency room every year due to bike accidents and some die from those injuries Make sure your kid knows the rules of the road and wears a helmet that fits correctly and meets government safety standards. Getting your kid to actually wear the helmet might not be easy, but it could save his life.